My Christmas Travel Adventure
I'm currently sitting at the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) waiting to board a flight to Portland (the real one, in Oregon). The flight is delayed an hour, but I'm confident it won't be cancelled and I'll arrive there later this evening. This is a story about my adventure getting to this point. It's not that exciting, but it certainly has the potential to become exciting. Hence the reason for this post.
Yesterday afternoon, I noticed the weather was getting kinda nasty in Oregon. Soon after, I talked with my Dad in Salem. He confirmed the bad weather and told me their power had been out for several hours. Then I noticed Patrick's tweet that he was having trouble getting from San Francisco to Portland.
This morning, I used KATU's Flight Status page and flightstats.com to setup text message alerts for my flight and the earlier one I was hoping to catch. At 9:49 this morning, I received a text message that my flight was cancelled. I realized this could be a very bad situation with everyone traveling for the holidays and began to think the worst. I knew it couldn't get much worse than renting a car and driving the from LA to Salem.
Yesterday afternoon, when I first suspected my flight might be cancelled, I called Alaska Air. It was busy. Today, I called them over 10 times with the same result. I called Orbitz (since I'd booked through them) and they couldn't help much either. While I was musing over how much fun my evening was going to be, a co-worker suggested I call American Express Travel. I'd used my Amex to buy my ticket, so it seemed like it might work.
Not only was Amex Travel extremely nice, but they were actually able to help me. The guy who helped me was named Tim and he said they had connections to a travel-agent-only line for Alaska. He said he'd call Alaska to find out what my situation was. He took my cell number and called me back in less than an hour. Unfortunately, I was in an important meeting and couldn't answer his call.
I didn't get a chance to call Tim back until I was on the way to the airport. This time I talked with Wendy from Marathon Travel. She had talked to Tim and while we were talking, she 1) booked me on the later flight at 8:40 and 2) sent me an e-mail with my confirmation number. She noted in her e-mail that it might not work:
If they give you any trouble or want to make you pay for the ticket, you may have to resort to your last option of renting a car and driving. I hope they cooperate and everything works out well for you. In any case have a safe journey and Happy Holidays.
Thanks to Wendy and especially Amex Travel for being so helpful. I never realized they had such good customer service. I'm very impressed.
The good news is everything did work out. Or at least it has so far. There's still quite a journey that has to take place. My sister drove from Chelan, WA to Salem, OR earlier today and it took her 3.5 hours to get from Portland to Salem (a 40 mile drive). Apparently, 6 inches of ice on the freeway can mess up traffic a bit.
I just got off the phone with my Dad where I gave him the good news (I'm coming) and bad news (please pick me up). There was no hesitation on his part and I'm hopeful that my bad-ass family won't let a little snow and ice get in their way. Now let's hope Alaska Air cooperates and holds up their end of the bargain.
Update: The rest of the trip was completed without a hitch. It took 3 hours for my sister and dad to drive to PDX and another 2 hours to get home. 6 inches of unplowed ice on I-5 was very interesting. We saw several rigs spin off the road in front of us. We made it safe and sound to Salem just after 3 AM.
Wow...I had a similar event occur earlier this week from Hawaii, and all the screw ups happened at LAX - including our nearly renting a car and driving back to Denver. The airline wanted to put us up in a hotel for 32 hours with a single meal. I also took matters into my own hands and purchased Southwest tickets for the family to get out the same day. The difference is mine wasn't weather related and I am now fighting United for a full refund due to a rule 245 violation, and thus Amex to the rescue in making this happen - stick with Amex and document everything and you will likely prevail.
Typically in these situations you want to refer yourself to the carriage contract for your airline. Most airlines have something called a rule 240 that basically says they have to get you out on the next available flight at their expense. Rule 245 probably won't apply to you if your flight was canceled due to weather. If it wasn't weather related, then examine 245 as you can get refunds of up to 200% of what you paid. Your carriage contract can be found here:
According to your contract with Alaska, your situation certainly falls under 240 (E), and thus you are entitled to a refund for that portion of the flight that you missed - but you are going to be disappointed at how they calculate that refund. If the airline failed to get you out on another airline and wanted you to wait it out or you were unable to get ahold of them due to their phone lines being tied up, and you found another flight on your own, you should be able to stick the bill to Alaska. I recommend you take the amount of your new tickets and file a refund with Amex against Alaska - that will likely get you what you want. Be prepared for Alaska to say no, and be prepared to fight. They won't let money walk out the door. You have the upper hand here with Amex on your side...they will stick it to them hard. Just be sure you document everything now (copies of tickets and exactly what happened). The longer you wait, the less of a chance you will get the refund. I also recommend you have a look at this web site:
That's not United...that is Unt*i*ed as in Un-Tied. They have tips on fighting this. Sorry for the long post here, but I just went through this and I hope the information can help others who are screwed by the airlines. If you have questions, hit me up on IM.
Posted by Jeff Genender on December 24, 2008 at 02:37 PM MST #